A couple of weeks ago I was having lunch with a thought leader in the real estate industry when the conversation went down a rabbit hole on the subject of follow-up from Realtors to their clients. Better said, the conversation turned to how crappy Realtors are at follow-up. Either it doesn’t happen at all, unfortunately, or the follow-up usually is generic and uninteresting at best. Then, somehow, that segued into a political discussion, which isn’t all that unusual when we chat. It occurred to us, during the political discourse, that maybe there is a place for politics in Realtor follow-up.
I know what you’re probably thinking. We’re crazy. Politics and religion are the two things you’re supposed to avoid, right? Wrong, at least in our opinion. Here is a summary of our thoughts and why we believe that not only is it ok to talk politics with clients, but it should be an imperative for Realtors who care about their clients, the industry, and their future in it.
“The punishment of wise men who refuse to take part in the affairs of government is to live under the government of unwise men.” – Plato
First, let’s talk about politics in real estate. I’ve written about it here before because I do truly believe, in the words of our PAC Director, that “if real estate is your profession, politics is your business.” There is no other organized group, certainly not one with over a million members, that advocates at the national, state, and local levels for protection of private property rights, the promotion of home ownership, and the future of the real estate industry. Realtors are it, the only ones standing between a powerful government and a single home owner. Think about that for a minute and let it sink in. So, if Realtors are interested in providing value to their clients in an effort to combat the reputation that they just open doors and go to happy hours, why wouldn’t they use this information to their advantage? (For the record, if you are a Realtor or affiliate member of a Realtor association and aren’t investing in your PAC, you should really reconsider that.)
From a macro level, there is one glaring problem with our PAC. We raise a significant amount of money to fund our initiatives and endorse candidates that support our mission. That’s great. We even vote on fairly regular basis, kinda. But what we don’t do is use our grassroots abilities to motivate more people to vote. As a Trustee of TREPAC, I can tell you that I have had this exact conversation with elected officials. The money is great. The fact that Realtors are involved in the process is great. The inability for Realtors to take that influence and turn out the vote amongst our clients and communities is in manager-speak, “an area for improvement”.
Addressing the “don’t talk politics and religion” mantra, here’s the good news. While Realtors may endorse candidates that not everyone agrees with, our issues are almost exclusively non-partisan. So, let’s focus on the issues. Lowering property taxes, supporting sensible lending practices, promoting transportation solutions, reigning in eminent domain abuses, limiting overreach from local municipalities and homeowner’s associations, and the list goes on. None of these is particularly partisan. Republican, Democrat, Independent, or Pastafarian, it would be hard to imagine a homeowner who wouldn’t like a more transparent property tax process or who wouldn’t want to make sure their local municipality doesn’t do something crazy that would affect their property value or usefulness. I think that most people will get behind the idea that we don’t need a repeat of the irresponsible lending practices that led to the financial meltdown of mid-2000’s. Alleviating traffic congestion? Check. Making sure water, electricity, and other utilities and conveniences are not only available now and into the future, but that they are affordable too? Check. So, so far I’m not hearing a lot of controversial issues here, are you? Stick to the issues.
The National Association of Realtors, your state association, and, hopefully, your local association are all involved in this process and publish talking points, issues and legislative updates, ask for Realtors to respond to calls to action on issues, get involved in local races and generally have their finger on the pulse of issues that affect you and your clients. Do you subscribe to the updates they send out? Do you know your political advisory team(s) or governmental affairs staff or volunteer leaders, PAC trustees, association staff, and/or local Realtor leaders? If the answer to these questions is no, you should get to know them. Trust me, as one of these people, we love when agents want to know what’s going on in the world of politics. Make it a point to know the issues and the people working for you on these issues.
So, how do you use this as a lead generation tool? It’s pretty simple, really. Once you know the issues, whether you have a CRM (which you should) or are just using email, your phone, or social media, pass the info you learn to your past clients and spheres of influence. If your goal is to be seen as the real estate resource to your prospects and past clients, then be resourceful. I assure you it is better than the nothing most agents don’t send out, and it is certainly better than a dancing leprechaun wishing someone a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. This kind of information is pertinent to your client, timely, and puts you in the position of expert. Encourage your clients to contact their representatives and let their voices be heard. Send out a schedule of hearings, if available, and get your base motivated to join you in protecting the American dream of homeownership. That’s truly creating a trusted relationship. Dancing leprechauns are cool and all, but building long-term, trusted relationships is way cooler.